Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Review: Chet Faker's "Built On Glass" Gives a Glimpse into the Artist

Review of Chet Faker's debut album "Built On Glass"

by Dustin van Wyk

Melbourne singer/songwriter Nicholas Murphy aka Chet Faker has been, for the past three years, riding a wave of underground success on the internet. Having first come into the spotlight through an impressive cover of  Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” in 2011, Chet has since gone on to be picked up by Remote Control Records, released a critically acclaimed EP “Thinking in Textures” and did some extensive collaborations with the likes of Flume, Say Lou Lou and Ta-Ku. His sound is one that combines elements of R&B, jazz and hip hop all filtered through modern left-field electronic production. His use of lo-fi textures contrasted with precise lush melodies and laidback beats gives his music a distinctive mood and atmosphere that distinguishes him from other similar acts such as Jamie Woon, James Blake and Bon Iver.

His debut, “Built on Glass”, sees him combing his vocal and production talents to great effect. His sensual strain is complimented by gentle Rhodes stabs while his melancholic rasp is met with glimmering guitars and rising saxophone lines. The backbone of the album is also a defining quality of Chet’s sound as he opts for sparse, slightly off kicks and snares with clicks and snaps to add extra emphasis to the melody of each track.

“Release Your Problems” gently opens the album with its dreamy Rhodes introduction that eventually fades away and is replaced with a disjointed jazzy back beat as Chet’s vocals swing along to the rhythm effortlessly. His harmonies rise and fall, and only come in for specific moments during the chorus.

As the album moves along, Chet expands his sound greatly with trip-hop laden “Melt” that features a slightly out of place Kilo Kish, “Gold”, a shape shifting gospel tinged track that sees Chet making extensive use of his vulnerable falsetto, and “1998”, a track that has a more modern UK garage feel similar to acts such as Disclosure and SBTRK, with its warping brass synth chord progression, chopped up vocal cuts and tight 808 beat that drives the song forward through its epic six minute duration.

Chet’s nimble melodies and vocal delivery, at their weaker moments, tend to sound like a musician who is not yet fully confident in his talents. The reserved nature of his music might leave the listener wanting more conviction from the Australian as he tries to piece together the latter half of his debut through uncomfortable crooning and songs that meander nowhere.

Irrespective of his talents and faults, the albums more enjoyable bits are merely scattered throughout each song, which might further dishearten listeners from appreciating the effort as a whole. Chet’s debut sounds more like a good beginning for an emerging talent rather than one that defines who that artist is.

Rating: 6/10